Part 2 – The New Faces of Int’l Adoption – continued.

Wow, I had hoped this topic would touch a lot of hearts, but I’m amazed at how many people are reading the post.  Over 5,000 views in less than 36 hours is really encouraging! It affirms to me that lots of people care deeply about helping the children most in need – but maybe they don’t know where to begin, or how to get past their fears.

If you didn’t get to read the comments in Part 1 yet, I really think you’ll want to. There are some thought-provoking, insightful and challenging comments and I learned a lot from them. I’ve gotten several comments on Facebook, too, and I’m trying to get people to move them over to join our conversation. The comments section is more than feedback- it’s where the blog post really becomes a discussion and not just my opinion. I’m certainly no expert, but I do believe we all have little bits of “expertise” in our experiences that we can share.

** Several related topics people brought up are really close to my heart.  Someday soon I want to talk about the tragic phenomenon of international baby trade and other hard topics, such as when adoption is the answer and when it isn’t. We in the international adoption community have to talk — and do — more to promote family preservation within the countries and communities from which we adopt. We have to acknowledge that international adoption is not going to solve the orphan crisis and we MUST come together to figure out ways to ensure the next generation of children has far fewer orphans than this one.  
For now, though, this series has been defined as a discussion specifically about waiting children whose time is running out.  I really feel the need to proceed all the way through our targeted issues before tackling some of these others.  **

To continue the discussion, we’ll address some of the reasons people give for not being able or willing to adopt – specifically the reasons people give for not being able to adopt an older or special needs child.

I recently asked my Facebook friends: What are the top reasons you or people you know give for not being willing/able to adopt a child with special needs or adopt older (5+) children?

This question led to a long list of really interesting replies. I’m not going to post them all here but I wanted to share the most common reasons given.

1. Financial concerns (the cost of adopting and possible ongoing costs for a child with SN.)

2. Older children may have been abused and in turn might abuse other children in the home.

3. SN children will hinder your current lifestyle/life.

4. Could be detrimental or not fair to current children.

5. Reactive Attachment Disorder

6. Not having the time or energy to properly care for a SN child.

7. No experience with SN or raising older children.

8. Fear of the child never being independent as an adult.

9. Keeping birth order.

10. Family members not accepting an older or SN child.


What reasons/fears/obstacles can you add to this list?

Are or were these concerns of yours? What was your biggest concern?

If you have adopted, how did you overcome these obstacles?

In the next post, we’ll talk about what most people listed as their primary concern with adoption: finances.

Thanks so much for your input and consideration.  Let’s keep the dialogue going and continue to educate ourselves and each other.  I really believe that by working together we can help many precious children find forever families.


9 Responses to “Part 2 – The New Faces of Int’l Adoption – continued.”

  1. I am really interested in people’s opinion and experience with preserving birth order. We had our first baby in March (a total surprise after starting the adoption process after infertility, we were starting domestic adoption of a toddler and possible sibling group) we both feel called to adopt but waiting for a child that won’t “displace” our first will take a long time.

  2. Love the discussion For us when we first started our family (adoption first by choice), we felt ill prepared to adopt an older child. We had never parented before. We actually had an emergency foster care placement of a 6 year old for about 6 weeks and that was an amazing, tough tough tough situation that really opened our eyes. She was not a kid with behavior issues but it was one of those situations where we really had no idea of what we were getting into and completely misjudged how we would feel, how it feels like glorified baby sitting, etc.. We were both working full time and in our case, the bulk of the care fell to me because I was a woman and it is really unwise to have my husband bathe, dress, etc. a foster child who is a girl. We also had been married about 8 years and were really used to having all our time for ourselves. So the learning curve was STEEP to say the least. That said, we tried to be open to whatever situations arose including a tween sibling set from Sri Lanka and some preschool placements. None of it clicked or worked out and in the end, we ended up at Haiti with an infant referral. For us, it actually fit and I think our foster experience and our first adoption showed me how your expectations matter a lot in having a successful adoption. I think that also holds true as our infant referral ended up being a toddler adoption due to a lengthy process. I remembered reading in The Weaver’s Craft something about people who have struggled with toddler adoption the most being the people who wanted an infant but got “stuck” with a toddler. It reminded me a lot of our foster care experience and how my unrealistic expectations made that experience so hard and I was then determined not to be the person who wanted an infant but got a toddler and couldn’t find joy in that. so I think that answers the question how I got over some of the fears and uncertainties: I just resolved to do it with joy and love and to let go of the expectations I had that were mostly about me and my needs. (Not to say that I can’t be pretty selfish. I just mean that I recognized how many of the tough thing were about me and that it was good to be aware of that. I think overcoming/coping with the selfish nature is one of the hardest things of parenting regardless of how you came to be a parent and that it is one of the hardest things of being a new parent.) Right now, we are on adoption number 3. We have two five year olds and we did not consider a child older than our two. Honestly, if the right teen adoption situation arose, I think we would say yes to it. (My husband is a high school boys soccer coach and we have at discussed two of his players moving in with us.) I think the reason we feel like it needs to be the “right situation” is because we have littles and worry about sexual abuse as well as them being exposed to thing that they shouldn’t be. While I don’t believe that most adoptions are so negative, I do think you have to be consider that they might be and it just feels like there are too many unknowns with an international adoption. I think teen adoption would be a better fit for us than elementary school age because of the age of our kids. Both of my kids have had to carve new lives for themselves multiple times in their pasts and upsetting the apple cart with another child who comes in and takes the big brother/big sister role away from them seems like something I don’t want to do. A teen might be different simply because of the age gap. That said, adoption number 3 is underway and will be a 2 year old boy with limb differences. (Missing one hand completely and has two fingers on the other hand) For our first two adoptions, we were not opposed to a special need. It just happened that the children we agreed to parent were healthy waiting children who needed families. (They were in orphanage care months before we showed up; both in orphanages who have often have more children than placements even for infants.) For our current adoption, we were pretty certain we would seek out a special needs situation. On our list of things to consider were limb differences, HIV positive, cerebral palsy, and vision/hearing problems. In terms of things we “fear” I think our fears are probably rooted in access to medical care and life long care. We live about 90 minutes away from the nearest children’s hospital. In the last five years, we have played significant roles in the illness and deaths of my mother in law, my father, and my grandmother in law. We know how hard it is on a family to live miles away from the facility where someone is receiving care and we also recognize that our family unit is very small and that we do not have a lot of other people whom we can rely on to help us. So things like heart surgery seem out to us. The inability to live independently as an adult is also a concern to us. Mostly because of our previous experiences in being care takers for parents/grandparents and because we know how hard it is. But that said, we have done a lot of thinking about Down’s Syndrome and we are to the place where if we thought the situation was right, we might well say yes to Down’s. (Said on the heels of my sentence about heart surgery, I know…) Regarding HIV, that is one special need that I honestly think people are scared to death of for no good reason. Two Christmases ago, I was surfing online and came upon Project Hopeful’s HIV adoption video. I was amazed. I could not believe what I was hearing and could not believe that I didn’t know how manageable HIV was. From what I have heard, I think even the bulk of adoption workers do not realize what it is like to parent a child with HIV. So in terms of getting over that fear, it was simply a matter of education, of watching a video and going “oh my goodness! I did not know that!” Okay sorry for the book…just such a good topic.

    • I think it is right to consider which needs will will be less of a strain on your family resources – both time (if you are a ways away from a medical facility) and financially. We are within 30 minutes of about 5 major hospitals. But, we’ve got a $10K insurance deductible. We could max it out some years, but without adequate coverage for things like HIV medication or Exjade for Thalassemia, we just couldn’t afford to pay $10K every year. However, as a SAH mom, I do have the ability to take my child to various therapies. I do think some special needs may place exceptional hardship on a particular family. But the beauty of it is that a child with those same special needs would be a great fit for another family. And needs that other families might struggle to manage, are good fit for my family.

      I think the key is research. Talk to other parents about the day-to-day realities of parenting a child with a particular need you may be considering. After having contact with many parents with needs I wasn’t sure about, I became so much more confident about meeting the needs. Knowledge takes away so many fears.

      Everything changes once you are able to see a child who happens to have a medical quirk (or is a bit older, but still needs to be somebody’s baby) instead of just a need or an age.

  3. We adopted WAY out of birth order (our oldest bio child was 3 when our 10.5 year old daughter joined our family). Like so many others, we worried about attachment since she’d spent so much of her life NOT with us, possible abuse she might have experienced, if we had the parenting skills to parent a preteen and so much more. It hasn’t always been easy and we’ve certainly had our fair share of challenges but overall it has gone so much more smoothly than we ever expected. We went into it with our eyes wide open, as educated as possible and we’ve put into place many safeguards to try and keep all of our children safe and happy. I know that special needs or older child adoption isn’t for everyone but I do think it’s worth a serious look for families who feel even slightly compelled to consider a non-infant or a child with some special needs. So many times these wonderful children get overlooked for reasons that are very manageable, preventable, treatable or that you can easily learn to adjust to with some time, support and education.

  4. We finally just brought home our five year old son. He falls right in the middle of our two daughters age wise. While he is wild and rowdy and rambunctious and ALL boy, he is also sweet and loving and generous. I would absolutely adopt a boy his age again and it breaks my heart to think of how many kids are passed over because of their age.

    The one and only reason we didn’t adopt a child over the age of six is because we talked to our daughters about it and our older daughter was very supportive of having siblings as long as she could still be the oldest. The more we talked about it and thought about it and looked at our family dynamic the more we recognized that a baby wouldn’t be good (oldest daughter would feel too much responsibility for the baby because of previous trauma) and that displacing her as the oldest against her wishes at this point would tear apart our attachment with her. Our boys are four and five and while that means we have four kids born within 22 months of each other, the attachment between siblings has gone beautifully.

  5. We adopted our son almost 2 years ago at 12 months of age. He is a congenital, bilateral, above the knee amputee. His special need was shocking to us at first b/c it wasn’t anything we had ever considered, however, once we started getting more information about him and realizing that his cognitive abilities were on par with his peers and that he had exceptional social skills, a lack of legs didn’t seem so much to deal with (as his older sister came home with severe delays in every area). I completely understand what you mean about people seeing your child’s need before they know your child. Once you know him though, the limb difference fades in significance. One thing that definitely helped in our adjustment is that we were able to bring him home at such a young age (which helped with attachment) and get him fitted with prosthetics about the time he started walking on his stubs. We are grateful for the wonderful care he received from the nuns in his orphanage who gave him special love that provided a wonderful foundation for the confident, secure little boy that he is today! Our prayer is that just as we were encouraged to consider special needs by the examples of some families that we knew, others will believe that they too can ‘handle’ special needs after being around our kiddos.

  6. THANK YOU for visiting this topic. Adopting older children is a reality. It is something that many, many families have done. It is also important to expose the myth that by adopting a baby you somehow have an “out” in serious adoption issues. This is simply not true. I have friends that adopted a sibling group and the older children have done much better in attachment than the younger. Let’s do the research with adoptive families.
    I loved in the last post when you wrote this:
    “Many of these well-intentioned families have seen their friends bring home healthy infants for the past 10 years from China, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Vietnam, etc. They’ve heard the statistics that there are 147 million orphans in the world. Perhaps they went to a Christian conference where leaders were shouting from the rooftop that it’s a Christian’s duty to rescue one of the millions of children waiting in orphanages. Certainly they’ve watched the popular “gotcha day” videos where teary-eyed moms hold their babies for the first time and read the popular blogs. Understandably, they dream of similar videos and blogs of their own. It’s no wonder these families are fired up and ready to rescue a baby. Except that in reality, these waiting, adoptable “healthy” babies just don’t exist.

    Friends, it is time to paint a more realistic picture of what international adoption looks like today.

    I am not aware of any adoption program, anywhere in the world where healthy, adoptable infants are sitting in orphanages waiting for families.”

    We must stand and realize that a day old, week old referral COULD be possible…but would be VERY rare. Proper work must be done in reunification. Proper paperwork must happen. We must see adoption as the last choice. It is a very good option but it is not THE option. We must step into the orphan crisis.

    GREAT posts.


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